The void Lebron has left in the Eastern Conference can only be described as vast. Whether he was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Miami Heat, his team has represented the East in the NBA Finals for the past eight year. That’s some Bill Russell sized accomplishment. The Pacers, the Bulls, the Raptors and the Celtics all took good shots at him over the years but no one could get it done. Honestly though, were they ever really that close? Probably not. Even this year, we all knew he was going to make that shot against Toronto. We all knew he was going to beat the Celtics in Game 7. Everyone knew. So, what happens now?
Fortunately for Eastern Conference fans, there are plenty of teams on the up and up. The Celtics are only going to be better. The 76ers are only going to be better. The Raptors are only going to be-pretty-much-the-same-as-last-year-but-hopefully-they-can-now-avoid-embarrassing-themselves-in-the-playoffs… Let’s see what the oddsmakers think and find out who’s the favorite to win the Lebron-less East and then, almost certainly, lose to the West. We love a good Future bet and now the Lebron has jumped ship, the East is wide open.
Boston Celtics -125
The odds on favorite Celtics aren’t bringing to much heat with only a -125 showing. A favorite for sure but a favorite this close to even will still have something to prove. Their run last year through the playoffs was actually quite remarkable considering they were without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Adding those two All-Star veterans to the mix should only improve them, so it is hard to see anyone stopping them. That said, the Bucks took them to Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs. The East will be a wild ride and the Celtics should be there at the end and -125 is a decent number for such a good team.
Philadelphia 76ers +400
Last season, the Sixers turned into the sexy pick very quickly. A little too quickly really. Yes, they were back in the playoffs and even won their first round matchup versus the Heat. And then, everyone decided they should be in the Finals. A little prematurely to say the least. That said, this is a great team. Everyone loves Joel Embiid and what’s not to love. From his rebounding to his Twitter feed, he’s amazing but, unfortunately, it ends with him for the Sixers. Ben Simmons is going to have to grow up quick to get these guys past the Celtics and that’s probably too much to ask next year.
Toronto Raptors +500
Getting rid of DeMar DeRozan was a great move. That’s not a knock on DeRozan either. The team plateaued several years ago and they were going nowhere. So they fired the Coach of the Year and traded away the best player in franchise history but this is the only way to get better. Bringing everyone back, even with Lebron gone out west, wouldn’t have accomplished much. Taking a chance on Kawhi Leonard is the perfect play. Leonard has everything to prove and the Raps need that type of urgency. He’s a two time defensive MVP. He’s a Finals MVP. His talent hasn’t gone anywhere and that should frighten the rest of the teams in the East. Leonard’s presence should also free up Kyle Lowry to not only score more points but, more importantly, eliminate his inconsistency. +500 is a great number for this team and, with Leonard in tow, playing with a chip on his shoulder, expect big things.
Milwaukee Bucks +1500
Last year’s season ended pretty poorly with a first round loss in the playoffs to the Boston Celtics. Yes, the Celtics were/are very good, however, the Bucks really limped into the playoffs and probably could have avoided the whole matchup by simply playing 500 ball the last month of the season. But this year may be different as the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is a year older which means he is a year closer to being the best player in the NBA. It’s only a matter of time for this kid and he’s why you should love the Bucks this year. 15 to 1 odds helps too. They pulled a little addition by subtraction by letting defensive liability Jabari Parker walk and will be better for it. +1500 is an upset special and the Bucks could be walking into the Finals.